Beyond First Aid Logo

First Aid Kits

Some Myths Busted

I was asked a while ago about the contents of a first aid kit.

What can and can’t go in one

Well the answer depends on what the kit is for, where it is, who is going to be using it.

Let me explain…

If we’re talking about the kitchen drawer or bathroom cabinet at home, you can keep whatever you want in there, and nobody will bat an eyelid. If however this first Aid Kit is going to be hanging on the wall in the playgroup, or maybe the school office, or even sat on the stage of your Zumba class, then there are rules.

This is the list I was given for a list that I’m going to guess was for someone’s workplace. At first glance it seems OK but look a little closer and it’s full of nasty stuff that should be avoided at all costs.

First Aid Kit List - Not as it first seems

So, let me begin with antiseptic wipes, those wound cleaners at item 1. This must be right surely… er… no! While being slightly better than Hydrogen Peroxide that we used to use. Why? Well, antiseptics are good at killing germs, bacteria for example. Splash it on and watch it fizz away. Killing all those nasty single celled critters. It does this too well in fact. All that fizzing you see is the cellular membranes of the bacteria busting open and them spilling their insides out. A reaction inside the bacteria occurs with an enzyme called catalase, the aftermath of which is water and oxygen. Good news eh? No, it’s not. You see antiseptics such as hydrogen peroxide are so good at killing cells that they just don’t care what cells they kill, including yours.

Crazy bit of news for you here… your cells make their own hydrogen peroxide because, well, they’re cells too. They also use catalase to turn their waste into hydrogen and water before it causes any damage.


Now come at that nicely balanced cell with more hydrogen peroxide from the outside and the result is not good. You’ve now got loads of dead stuff skimming around your wound. They should be helping to heal that wound. Now healing is going to take longer, the scar is going to be worse, because the scab is going to be bigger. So, stop picking at it.

OK, so what should you use.? Water, possibly the stuff in your first aid kit for washing eyes. It’s just sterile water in a tube. maybe Alcohol-free wipes. Yep, swap those antiseptic nasties for alcohol free wipes, or just use good old water, maybe an unperfumed soap if you’re feeling generous. You could rub away with those swabs at item number 2 if you want but be gentle.

This brings me to number 3. Cotton wool. Just NO. Keep the cotton wool for removing make up, but do not put it in a first aid kit. “but the chemist sells it?” I don’t care. Cotton wool is not designed for wounds. Yet, put it in a first aid kit, and the inexperienced will put it on a wound, clean wounds, and all sorts of horrors. Cotton wool is made of millions of tiny strands of cotton. Tiny woollen hairs that will stick to a wound like toffee apples on a white shirt. These must be washed away by a poor healthcare assistant in A&E before anyone can stitch it back together. So, cotton wool? No!

4, 5, and 6 are OK so long as the scissors are not pointed on the end you’re pointing at the casualty. The scissors are not for cutting bandages, because they are not sterile. If a bandage is too big, fold it. Scissors are for cutting clothing to get it off the casualty, and the last thing they want is to get stabbed by the first aider. This is the same reason why you should bin the safety pins. Put them in the sewing kit. You don’t need them in a first aid kit, trust me!

Moving on.

8-15, I have no problem with any of these so long as they are clean, still airtight, and in good condition. I don’t care about triangular bandages or tape; these are not touching wounds. Just use common sense.

Splints. Do you know how to use them? If you can honestly say yes, then fine. If not, why bother.

Gloves. Yes, to gloves, lots of gloves, can’t have too many gloves. BUT NO LATEX. Some people are allergic to latex, so you’ll do them no favours by wearing latex gloves. Nitrile, vinyl, even marigolds if that’s all you’ve got, but no latex.

Gloves are a barrier between you and them to prevent cross infection. You don’t want to catch anything off them, and they do not want anything nasty off you. So, a barrier such as gloves and a mask for doing CPR are both good ideas.

So, is that it? Might be. But what about burn dressings, clingfilm, foil blankets etc. Do you need a tick remover? What about a pen, a torch, a good (but small) first aid manual? All good ideas, but do you need the?

Do I need a new BS 5899 kit?

Short answer… No. But it’s not a good place to start. What about an HSE approved kit?


There, I said it, I just upset all the people in the world who supply first aid kits, yep, even the ones that sell to me! Look at it like this, how can anyone say they sell first aid kits that are approved for the workplace? What is a workplace? A place where people go to work! Might sound a bit obvious but it’s a fact.

So, design a first aid kit that will suit every single workplace. That way every time a person goes to work, they will know that they have a suitable kit. It’ll be the biggest first aid kit in the known universe but a standard kit suitable for everyone. Have I lost you yet? Thought so.

Right, Mrs Bloggs goes to work in a smart little outfit she got from Marks and Sparks. Those open toe shoes. She picked those up at the sales last week, summer is sort of here after all. She works in a library. Nice quiet place most of the time, though she did get a paper cut back in 2006. Nasty one it was, even her 2 members of staff said it looked painful.

Mr Bloggs on the other hand, has to wear steel toe capped boots, not your normal boots cos these ones are huge and have big leather bits that cover half his leg. He wears a massive outfit made of something that could stop a scud missile in its tracks. Blacked out visor to protect his face, ear defenders and a hard hat top off this season’s foundry look. Now I can’t tell you how many plasters, burn dressings and bandages this place gets through, but if they got the stuff from me, I could retire early. They employ over 1500 staff, work in dark, hot, dangerous conditions and work long hours coming home filthy and knackered.

Do you honestly think the library and foundry use the same first aid kits?

When you get the latest newsletter from your first aid supplier saying you MUST buy a new first aid kit, bin it. Speak to your boss about first aid. because it is his or her job to make sure you have stuff you need. Sure, suppliers are going to sell ‘HSE First Aid Kits’ but these are based on the Health and Safety Executive recommendations, there is no law that says you MUST get them and hang them proudly on your office wall, and I can tell you for nothing, they will not be suitable for every workplace.

Here’s the deal, if you are not sure what you need give me a call, if you do know what you need, give me a call. If you have not understood a word I have said but think a nice new first aid kit would, now I mention it, look quite nice against the pale blue of the office walls, call me and I’ll sell you one. BUT… I’ll only sell you one with things in that you’ll need.

I’ll make this as easy for you as I can…

There’s more…

I’m off on a trip to the Great Victorian Desert unsupported, then I’m heading to K2, then circumnavigating the globe via both poles, bet you can’t supply me with a kit to cover that little lot, can you? There will be snake bites, insects to deal with, extremes of temperature, not to mention possible altitude related illnesses, bet you can’t cover all of that, can you?

Well, in a word, YES!

Let me know where you’re travelling to, and I’ll tell you what vaccinations you’ll need. I’ll tell you what illnesses are found in the countries you’re visiting. I’ll tell you where to find safe healthcare and even give you a kit that you can take to the dentist if you need a filling. In some place the hygiene may not be as good as that you’re used to. (Dr. N’anga has strange ideas on sterility)

So, you see, if it’s a small kit for the car or bathroom cupboard, a large amount of ‘approved’ kits for your new offices or a bespoke kit for your adventures around the globe, I can sort you out. So give me a call, you might be glad you did!

Employers and First Aid Kits (New bits)

The not-so-recent European Resuscitation Council review of several first aid protocols suggests there is a need in certain circumstances for first aid kits to contain haemostatic dressings and tourniquets. Sound frightening? The view of HSE is that the inclusion of these items is based on your First Aid Needs Assessment.

It is our view, that unless you have been trained in their use, and have completed a needs assessment and found that you may require these devises, then DON’T. Incorrect use can cause unnecessary harm and tissue damage to the casualty. So, if you are in any doubt as to whether you need these, click here and ask us.

Where your needs assessment has identified a requirement for tourniquets and/or haemostatic dressings you should make sure:

  1. Your haemostatic dressings are always in date.
  2. Workplace first aiders are trained by a competent provider in when to apply a tourniquet and the correct technique to use. For example, competent training providers should be teaching clinical protocols as described by the Faculty of Pre-Hospital Care. Did I mention that at the time of writing, we’re members?
  3. Workplace first aiders have training in when and how a haemostatic dressing is applied.

Examples of sectors that may benefit from additional training in the use of tourniquets based on RIDDOR data include construction, agriculture, forestry and some aspects of manufacturing.

…and finally

Where do you put all this kit now you have it? Somewhere easily accessible, not out of reach. People might need this thing in a hurry. Put it in something people will know as a first aid kit. A green box with FIRST AID written on it is known by millions as the go to box for plasters etc.

OR… put it in an old box like the one from the top of the page. A photo I’m using with the kind permission of Sean Conway Check out that facial growth. It’s amazing.